Friends! Who in their right mind would tote THREE young children across FOUR continents, with her husband and FIVE backpacks over NINE months??? Uh, that would be Tsh Oxenreider. Now that I’ve read her book, I feel as if I had the fabulous opportunity to accompany her from my little chair right here on our porch.
Having enjoyed reading another one of Tsh’s books (Notes from a Blue Bike), when I discovered this one, I had to grab it. Her little family accomplished this traveling while “world-schooling” their kids. Their experiences are eye-opening and jaw dropping all at once. (Small detail: their children were 8, 6, and 4 at the time. Piece of cake, right?)
One minute you find yourself bug-eyed, the next minute you’re howling laughing. Upon some hair-raising discoveries you’ll find yourself saying, “Wow, I’m glad they did this! Not sure I’d be so brave.” (i.e. finding a tarantula in your shower or monkeys stealing a sandal!)
We readers get to see firsthand how travel shapes and transforms this precious family of five. Chris Guillebeau said, “Tsh is a remarkable example of how to balance the rooted stability of family with the winged adventure of wanderlust.”
Toting only backpacks, the Oxenreider family hops a plane bound for China where they land twenty-nine hours later. Upon arrival, they snap “first day of school” pics in Beijing, their three children’s blond hair fascinating the Asians. You’ll get to go on more than one tuk-tuk ride and gag over some prepackaged chicken feet in a market.
On to Hong Kong…and then Thailand where Tsh seeks out some spiritual direction. I love her honesty and hunger to revive her faith. Amazingly, and surely God-orchestrated, Tsh is connected with a woman by the name of Nora, a spiritual director, who she meets with a number of times since they’d be in Thailand for two months.
Right away, Nora suggests the below phrase:
Precious pearls of faith are dotted throughout, many of which are revelations. God’s omnipresence will warm your soul.
The family flies to southern Thailand, strategizing to create an endless summer. A ninety-degree Thanksgiving is what they got. On to Singapore, where it’s also ninety degrees, we learn it’s always ninety degrees there.
And did you know the Changi Airport is the best airport in the world? “Free movie theaters, swimming pools, art stations, video game portals, nature paths in outdoor gardens, world-class playgrounds, a butterfly sanctuary, and sleeping rooms.” Who needs Disney?!
After a brief visit, the Oxenreider fam is off to Australia and it’s Christmastime. They travel from Sydney, to Brisbane, to Cairns. We learn quickly Australia is “one of the world’s most expensive countries.” Interestingly, both Tsh and her husband, Kyle, have jobs where they can work from anywhere.
A huge aha moment occurred further into the chapter on Australia. I’ve always been a fan of koala bears, thinking Qantas Airlines surely is the bomb. I’d never realized the country is home to “5,700 different animal species, 80 percent found nowhere else in the world…Australia has more things that will kill you than anywhere else on the plant. Ten of the worlds’ deadliest snakes live here, and five of the most lethal creatures in the world reside in the northeast state of Queensland.” Packin’ your bags?
Tsh’s vivid writing brings each new element of each country to life. A favorite quote from their visit to Australia is, “The land is special here; a dance of God’s divinity with dirt. We are here to witness it.”
John, their hiking guide, warns the children not to touch a certain plant with side effects you don’t want to read about, much less subject your children to. I’d have bailed. You don’t want to miss this part.
Nor do you want to miss their snorkeling adventure at the Great Barrier Reef, making you want to jump in with them, even if you have to stuff yourself into a wet suit. Tsh shares, “The sky and water are monochromatic. It is a canvas of blue, textured by shadowy-small waves.”
Onward to New Zealand…from Christchurch to Queenstown. The plot thickens, when because of expenses, their next half of the visit will be spent in….get ready: a campervan in non-stop rain. (I’d have had to stop and buy duct tape to cover my mouth.)
Another nugget we should all copy is a term Tsh teaches us upon their return to Australia where they get to housesit for friends. This friend’s parents pick them up at the airport, some fifty miles from the outskirts of Sidney where they’d be staying. They come in not one, but two cars. Commenting on the cost of gas, Tsh insists they at least pay them something. But no, Pete and Bez won’t hear of it.
They go on to explain about “The Westbrook Effect” which came from an experience they had with a man named Westbrook. Every time they came to visit, he’d pull out all the stops, going above and beyond, treating them like royalty. They decided from then on that anytime they had guests they’d do the same. Likewise Tsh and Kyle said they’d be doing it too. Their family of five celebrates Christmas, and it’s on to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a “pear-shaped island southeast of India.” What transpires here is my favorite part of the journey. (Remember the tarantula and the monkeys? Do NOT miss this chapter!) Also keep in mind that “cobras are as plentiful as Texas squirrels.” How much sleep would you get? (You’ll also discover incredible facts about tea in Sri Lanka and coffee in Ethiopia.)
Our own Kentucky author, Wendell Berry, introduces Part Four. It includes Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Morocco.
Part Five takes us to France, Italy, Croatia, Kosovo (where Tsh and Kyle met), Turkey (where they lived with two of their three children for some time), Germany, and England. Since Europe has always been Tsh’s favorite place to visit, the stops in each of these countries are extra special, including the places where they stay, one of which is an olive oil mill!
You can easily picture the countryside in these petite villages. Breathtaking. At one point Tsh reveals, “Passport stamps became icons for gathered wisdom.
Every single chapter (there are twenty-two!) is a wealth of information, entertaining and educating the reader who I presume will add some of these stops to their own bucket list.
Now you know what I’m going to say! Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. See where your definition of home is after reading this.
Bonus: Don’t miss Tsh’s blog: The Art of Simple www.theartofsimple.net
‘Til next time!